The note from Mrs. Menzies forced me to
consider ways to make contact with her myself without using a
go-between. But how does one gently break the news to a total stranger
across the ocean that I am the one searching? Should I disguise my
interest in the subject as research on fur trade history? Or should it
be honest, and straight up, as in “I am one of his grandchildren?” It
took some thinking to wrestle with this.
Mrs. Menzies was the only person in
Scotland who had come forth, claiming to have known the man I was
searching for. I did not want to burden her any more than necessary. I
wished there were a how-to manual, with instructions on how to go about
this. Who can serve as a trusted third party to tell my story to Mrs.
Menzies? But then, it would become somebody else’s burden for something
that would come full circle back to me!
After a while, the only option, which made
sense, was to approach her myself. I would go for broke, and try to do
it with finesse. I asked the producers of Inuktitut magazine to send
Mrs. Menzies a copy of the issue with my search story in it. At the same
time, I sent her a one-page letter explaining who I was and why I was
seeking this information. I was careful not to clutter the letter with
statistics and detail. I enclosed a photograph of my mother, taken in
1959 by Frederica “Paningaaq” Knight.
Once the letter was sent, a great weight
seemed to lift off from my mind-set. Taking this step felt natural and
easy after all, and boosted my confidence. If no instruction manual yet
existed on how to go about this, perhaps I could write one after this.
This search was forcing me, in a positive way, to find within myself
some enhanced intellectual capacity; to solve what needed to be solved
without cry-babying to somebody else every time a challenge cropped up.
While I waited for some reply, an amazing
piece of news came in a one-sentence e-mail from Don Cameron in Salluit.
He sent me the mailing address and the telephone number of my uncle in
Scotland, as bare facts with no excitement attached to their
announcement. Two years earlier, my subject’s trail had withered off
into the unknown in short sputtering sentences.
Now, in one brief sentence, a bombshell
finding had been delivered, getting me back on a definite track!